Binge Eating Increasingly Being Seen as Mental Health Issue
"New rules could help binge eaters."
That headline in the Houston Chronicle caught my attention recently. The article pointed out that this condition often is underdiagnosed as being a mental health issue. However, the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will soon list binge-eating disorders as a specific diagnosis. The article points out that experts hope this new designation will help people who suffer from binge eating to get specific treatment for this disorder. Prior to this designation, people were often sent to weight-loss programs or clinics and didn't get the appropriate treatment.
And there are a lot of people to help. Potentially as many as 8.5 million Americans have this disorder. Furthermore, binge eating tends to be seen in women slightly more often. The Houston Chronicle story pointed out that disorder can develop at or after middle age because of stresses such as retirement, caregiving and death of spouse and family members.
Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine defines binge eating as being "when a person eats a much larger amount of food in a shorter period of time than he or she normally would. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control." In this situation, a person eats between 5,000 to 15,000 calories at one sitting. This person often eats snacks as well as three meals a day, and overeats throughout the day.
This group for the most part does not throw up their food, do a lot of exercise or eat small portions of specific foods. And not surprisingly, people who binge eat often end up becoming overweight.
Womenshealth.gov, which is a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health reports that people who have this disorder may:
- Consume food more quickly when they are having a binge-eating episode.
- Consume food until they are uncomfortable.
- Consume food when they're not hungry.
- Often eat alone because they're embarrassed about their eating habits.
- Experience disgust, depression or guilt after overeating.
While you would think that binge eating would be the only eating disorder a person would have, it turns out that it can also be seen in people who also have bulimia. In this case, these individuals typically eat large amounts of high-calorie foods without anyone knowing it. After they participate in binge eating, the individual then forces themselves to expel the food from their body, either through vomiting or taking laxatives.
Currently, the reason why people start binge eating is unknown. It is most often seen occurring during or after the individual has participated in a very strict diet. Womenshealth.gov reports that binge eating may be caused by abnormal brain activity. Researchers currently are studying the following in relation to binge eating:
- Depression, since approximately 50 percent of individuals who have this disorder have a past or current history of depression.
- Dieting, since some individuals tend to binge when they are avoiding certain foods, not eating enough food daily, or skipping meals.
- Coping, since binge eating has been linked to difficulty in handling emotions, such as anger, sadness, boredom, worry or stress.
- Biological reasons, such as genetic characteristics, brain chemicals and metabolism.
Binge eating also has been associated to some specific behaviors, including abusing alcohol, impulsive behavior, lack of empowerment and isolation.
The good news is that people who have this disorder can get better. Womenshealth.gov states that there are two treatments that seem to be helpful. The first is nutritional advice and psychotherapy, which includes cognitive behavioral therapy. The second treatment is drug therapy, such as antidepressants or appetite suppressants.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Creamer, A. (2013). New rules could help binge eaters. Houston Chronicle.
MedlinePlus. (2012). Binge eating.
Womenshealth.gov. (2009). Binge eating disorder fact sheet.